“It was terrifying last night, Aunt Becca. I wouldn’t believe it if I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes. I got up because I heard her. I wondered what she was doing at two o’clock in the morning. I know she hasn’t been sleeping well. She went down the stairs . She looked like she was floating in that pale green nightgown. I followed her. I don’t think she knew herself what she was doing. “Maybe she was walking in her sleep. She stopped just in front of the big living room window and looked out over the rhododendron bushes onto the front lawn. I stood behind her watching. The moonlight was shining down on the snow. It was so bright you could see the shadows of the branches of the trees. “Then she turned to go back upstairs. She saw me. Maybe she recognized me. I’m not sure. It wasn’t as if it made any difference that I was her own mother. No, I might have been a stranger on the street, a statue. She would have said what she said to the wall or to a chair if I hadn’t been there. Her voice was so soft it could have been a ghost’s. “‘Look at me,’ she said, not a trace of an expression on her face, ‘I’m already not here.’ “When I told Eddie about it, he looked at me like I was nuts. ‘Are you sure it wasn’t a dream?’ he asked me.“ “‘No, you idiot,’ I was tempted to answer him. ‘I’m not sure it wasn’t a dream. That’s why my blood ran cold. Because I was wide awake in the middle of the night and I wasn’t sure that it wasn’t a dream.” “She went back up the stairs. I followed her. She didn’t say another word. I hardly dared breathe. She climbed into bed, grabbed hold of her teddy bear, put her bottom up in the air just like she used to do when she was two years old and fell asleep. I stood there in the doorway and looked. I haven’t been able to get her words out of my head. “Either she’s going crazy or I’m going crazy or we’re both going crazy together. Eddie just says this is what girls do when they get to be teenagers and that we have to live through it. Then he takes his briefcase and goes off to work and I’m here all alone with myself, wondering why she won’t eat, at least not in any way that makes sense to me. “I remember when she was ten, I took her to that psychiatrist. I paid cash. I never told Eddie. He was kind. He talked to her. Then he told me that she had feelings and food all mixed up together. He said she needed treatment. But I never went back. “Aunt Becca, I’m frightened. I don’t know what to do. I can’t imagine what it would be like if she weren’t here. It would be like I wasn’t here myself.” She burst into shaking sobs. “Listen, Hannah, I’ll tell you just what to do. Sometimes it’s no good thinking for yourself. You need to be told what to do. I’m almost ninety years old now. Old enough to be my own ghost. I’ve seen everything. If I haven’t seen it in the soap operas on TV, then I’ve seen it in my own family, if not here, then in the old country where we lived so close to each other we were like sardines in a can, only without the oil. We dreamed of being alone and still we were lonely deep in our hearts where we couldn’t reach even with our own fingers with prayers attached to their tips.” “Tell me, Aunt Becca, tell me. I promise you I’ll do just what you say. I promise you even without hearing what it is. I’ll do it. No matter what it is.” “You’re a good girl, Hannah, just like your mother was before you. Oy, if only she would be alive, so you wouldn’t have to go taking second best from your old great Aunt, but, even if second best is bitter, it’s better than nothing, so I’ll tell you what to do.” “Tell me, Aunt Becca. Tell me. I’ll do it, no matter what it is. Even if Eddie’s against it. I won’t even tell him, but I’ll do it.” “You have to take her to see the Wonder Rabbi. Forget this psychiatrist. He’s nice, but nice isn’t what’s needed. “ “The Wonder Rabbi…I never heard of him.” “Of course not, you’re still just a youngster and, thank God, there’s a lot you haven’t heard of, law school or no law school, more than you can imagine and more even than I could tell you .” “I’ll take her to the Wonder Rabbi. I won’t break my promise to you. Just tell me how to find him.” “That’s not so easy. He goes by different names. Sometimes he’s a Pfeffer, sometimes a Link, sometimes a Rosenblatt, sometimes he gets tricky and he’ll go by a name like Hawkins or Furman and then he’ll slip back into Lilienthal, Shapiro or Levin or King or Abramovitz, because he needs privacy for what he has to do. It’s not for everybody to know his name, but the strange thing is that, if you need to find him, then there’s a way to figure it out. You start by going to Brooklyn and asking. You come in from the awful suburbs and you go to Brooklyn and you start asking for him. Ask the children and the old people. Only you shouldn’t wear either your best clothes or your worst clothes.” “What does he look like?” “He looks like himself. What do you expect he should look like? Besides it’s not his looks that you’re interested in. See what happens from all that television and all the rest. Looks, looks, looks is all they’re interested in now.” There was a click and the phone went dead.
“You have to help me. You have to. No, I know you don’t have to. But I need help. I really do. I don’t know just what we need, but I know we need help and the problem really is that we don’t know what we need and I don’t know what to tell you or how to tell you.” “Slow down, lady, slow down lady. Only God can tell everything all at once and He couldn’t tell us because we couldn’t bear to listen all at once. Besides, He wouldn’t dream of telling us, because He pities us, even if from a great distance, for which we should thank Him, too. We’re always in touch with him because we have no idea what we’re doing here. You’ve already told me so much. I’m just talking to give my mind a breather while it tries to catch up with all you’ve said and to tell my heart about it, so that I can hear you, which is the first four letters of ‘heart’, the whole thing without the T.” “My old Aunt Rebecca told me I had to find you. Then three days later she died, peacefully, in her sleep at the age of 89. She died before I had even had a chance to start trying to find you. In fact, if she hadn’t died, I might never have started, because I was so frightened.” “She did the right thing. I mean she did the right thing when she told you that you should find me, not when she died. But maybe that was the right thing, too. Because everything has a limit. “ The Wonder Rabbi stopped and inspected both of them. Winter light came streaming in the window, illuminating his face. “You’re too thin,” Ilana said. Hannah gasped, not so much because of what her daughter had said, but out of surprise that Ilana had said anything at all. Hannah’s face turned red. Now she was as shocked at her own behavior as she had been at Ilana’s. “That’s what my mother always told me. ‘You’re so thin you’re almost not there. There’s no shame in eating.’ I couldn’t find an answer to her until I was thirteen. A few weeks after my Bar Mitzvah it came to me. ‘The shame’s not in eating,’ I told her. ‘It’s in needing to eat.’ “ “But what about hunger?” Ilana asked. “Aren’t you hungry?” “Of course, I’m hungry,” he replied. “Hunger is here to stay. God put it into us to remind us that we are parts, forever incomplete. I’m hungry and I eat. But I can’t gain weight. Sometimes I feel like a feather that’s about to blow away.” “So do I,” said Ilana. “If it weren’t for feathers there wouldn’t be any birds. If it weren’t for birds, maybe we would never have learned to sing. Where would we be then? But I’m curious, how did you find me?” “Remember the freezing rain last Thursday?,” Hannah answered, “I was looking and looking, talking to whatever old people I could find. Finally, I was so cold and so lost that I was ready to curse the memory of my Aunt Becca. I went into Feigelman’s Delicatessen for a nice hot cup of tea. I asked the counterman where I could find the Wonder Rabbi. He winked at me and nodded. ‘No problem, lady,’ he said. ‘You know that window just next door you passed on the way in, the one that says Millenial Gliches on it in gilt lettering. You go talk to that guy. He can fix anything. Y2K or just plain why. It makes no difference to him.’” “He told you the truth, too. I can fix anything I can fix. If you’ve got a glich, I’ve got the itch to fix. So now all you have to do is tell me what needs fixing, because if it’s not broken I can’t fix it. So tell me.” Hannah was trying to decide if he really was too thin. His eyes fascinated her because they were so green and set so deeply in their sockets. “No, don’t tell me all at once. Let me tell you what you’ve already told me. She’s part of you and you’re part of her and you don’t know how to come apart without each one of you coming apart and you’re afraid that if you come apart there won’t be anything left of either one of you.” “That’s right,” Ilana put in eagerly. “Only there’s more to it than that. There’s somebody in me that I don’t know.” “Well, that’s just the way it should be at your age. The dark night of the soul, that’s how it is until we find the right light to recognize ourselves.” “No, I mean somebody who isn’t me.” “How do you know that if you don’t know who you’ll come to be?” “I mean somebody who will never be me.” “How can you be sure?” “I know,” Ilana answered, both insistently and beseechingly, “I can tell.” “So,” said the Wonder Rabbi, “we have to do with a dybbuk, an unacknowledged insubstantial but not unsubstantial member of the family.” “You’ll get rid of it,” Hannah exclaimed, momentarily beside herself with relief and joy. “Oh, no, I wouldn’t dream of it. Who are we, people of exile down through the centuries to inflict this condition on another? No, I’ll try to help you make a home for it, whoever it is. Don’t you think that’s a good idea, since it’s already living with you?” Ilana and Hannah looked at each other in astonishment. Both were thinking the same thing: “What would Eddie think? How could they ever persuade him to let anyone else come to live with them?” “What’s a dybbuk?” Ilana asked. “Can a dybbuk be your friend?” “Would you want a dybbuk for a friend?” the Wonder Rabbi responded softly. “It would depend what the dybbuk was like. It would depend if the dybbuk listened to what I had to say. It would depend if the dybbuk tried to understand me.” “What if the dybbuk disagreed with you?” “Friends don’t have to agree about everything. Friends just have to agree about some things. In fact, I wouldn’t want to have a friend who agreed with me about everything, because then when I looked into the mirror, I wouldn’t know who I was looking at, myself or my friend. “ “That’s a terrific answer,” the Wonder Rabbi said. “You must have done a lot of thinking about having a friend.” “If you have to agree with somebody about everything, then it’s like they’re trying to steal your mind and you have to fight to protect yourself. Then you can get so mad that you’re afraid. You don’t know what you might do. Then when you’re that afraid of yourself, it’s like you want to disappear, because that’s the only way you can be safe and you can keep them safe. It’s like you want to run away from yourself, but that would mean leaving yourself behind, so you just don’t know what to do.” “So maybe that’s what a dybbuk is, Ilana,” the Wonder Rabbi announced delightedly. “I thank the Almighty for sending you to me to explain things to me. A dybbuk might be somebody who couldn’t go on with her life, so that she had to abandon herself. But then the part that was abandoned had to find a way to go on, too. Only she had to do it secretly and silently. She had to stow away in somebody else.” “So you think I might have a stowaway aboard.,” Ilana said with wide eyes, her face alive with interest. Hannah was in a daze. She felt as if she might have been only a speck on the wall watching. Who was this Wonder Rabbi? Who was he talking to? Was that her Ilana? She hadn’t seen Ilana’s face like this since she was a three year old playing with dolls. But it was hard even to remember back that far. Hannah felt suddenly cold. She began to shake and felt that she might fall down. “I do think you might have one aboard,” the Wonder Rabbi pronounced. “But, if I do, how can I go about finding her?” Hannah felt the Wonder Rabbi’s eyes playing across her face, up and down her body. She felt naked before his gaze. No, transparent. He seemed to pity her. This pity brought her to the edge of tears. She felt small and lost and left out. She bit her lip and then pouted. She noticed Ilana looking at her with perfect tranquillity. “If you want to go looking for a stowaway, first you have to eat,” the Wonder Rabbi explained. “You have to eat because it’s hard work, but not just for you. Most dybbuks are starving, so that they need nourishment to be able to speak and to declare themselves out loud. You need to eat and I need to eat and your mother needs to eat. Luckily, Feigelman’s serves the best matzoh ball soup in all of Brooklyn.”
“Ah, so you found him,” the counterman greeted them as they sat down. “He’s a prize, isn’t he, our very own Wonder Rabbi? Look, I’ll tell you what you want. You don’t need to tell me, because I know already. Three hot steaming bowls of matzoh ball soup, in memory of the exodus from Egypt and in honor of the exodus from wherever it is that you are. I’ll have them in just one minute.” He was as good as his word. With the first mouthful of golden liquid, Hannah felt life streaming back into her, as if she had suddenly been transported within herself from winter into spring. The Wonder Rabbi looked young and handsome sitting between her and Ilana. She felt a sudden urge to lean over and kiss him on the lips. She wondered if Ilana was feeling the same thing and then blushed at the thought. “I’ve never had matzoh ball soup except at Passover,” Ilana said. “I never really thought that somebody else could be in exile inside me. It makes me feel very sad to think about. I want to find whoever it is and to help them. I can hardly bear to think about how lonely they must be. I know something about loneliness. I feel lonely when I sit in the same room with my Dad and I try to figure out whether he’s not there or I’m not there or maybe we’re both not there. I can’t tell Mom because she doesn’t want to know and I don’t know why she doesn’t want to know. Sometimes I think it’s because she already knows and she’s not interested in her life at all. But I don’t understand how she stopped being interested in her life. I think maybe I’m just too young to understand. But then I think it might have a lot to do with me, like that I was just too greedy and she got too tired.” “Mmm,” mumbled the Wonder Rabbi, as if entranced by the soup in his spoon. Hannah was indignant. Didn’t he hear what Ilana was saying? Was he just ignoring her? Maybe he was a fraud. Maybe he was nothing more than a third rate crazy computer programmer . Maybe she had fallen into his clutches because she was so desperate about her daughter. Or was it her daughter she was desperate about? She had been near the top of her class at law school, but now she couldn’t think clearly at all. Maybe she never had been able to think clearly. Maybe it had all been an illusion. What was the point of life anyway? Could the Wonder Rabbi tell her that? Her mother’s face swam up before her eyes, more vividly than she had seen it since her mother had died of cancer three years even before Ilana was born. She had never forgiven her mother for dying. It felt to her like whenever she needed her mother, she wasn’t there. They sat together in silence. “May I have another bowl?” Ilana asked, so politely that Hannah wondered whether this thirteen year old was the same daughter she was so worried about. “Of course, you can have another bowl,” the counterman said. “It’s the least we can do to apologize to you for the kind of world we’ve left you. What a mess!“ He shook his head and reached for the ladle. So another bowl of matzoh ball soup, golden as the first with two off-white boulders set in it, appeared in front of Ilana. She ate reflectively for a few moments. Then she asked, “How does one get into you?” Hannah was taken aback. At first it seemed to her that Ilana wanted to know how a baby got inside you. She had tried to talk with Hannah about all that, but Ilana hadn’t seem interested. Her own mother had not said even one word to her about it. That was another grudge Hannah held against her. But, Hannah realized quickly, Ilana was talking dybbuks, not babies. But were dybbuks so different than babies, really. They were both somebody inside you who wasn’t you, who would never, could never be you. Hannah smiled at herself. There she was, thinking like a lawyer. “I don’t know,” the Wonder Rabbi said. “Maybe they don’t all get in the same way. There are lots of different kinds of dybbuks. Each one has its own bag of tricks. What do you think?” Hannah found it remarkable how different the Wonder Rabbi looked to her from moment to moment, as if he were not one person, but a whole busload of different people somehow combined together. Now he looked neither young nor thin, but rather old and sad, his skin starting to droop from his bones, so that she felt for him, as if he were her father or even grandfather or great-grandfather. “I think it must have to do with what is left out. I think it must have to do with what isn’t said, what isn’t thought, what isn’t felt, what isn’t allowed. Something is missing and that gets your attention. There are blanks and you start trying to fill them in. The blanks have a certain shape. Maybe you think you’re making it up, but actually it was there all along waiting for you to make it up. That’s how a dybbuk gets your attention. That’s how a dybbuk fascinates you. You’re trying to balance what’s left out. Everybody around you is thinking one thing and you see that it’s just as easy to see something else when you look at it. This is a discovery you make. It fels new and fresh when really it’s old and has just been forgotten about. But it’s fierce, because it’s mad about being neglected for so long. A dybbuk tricks you into giving it life.” Ilana’s eyes were sparkling. Hannah felt empty and confused. This was an Ilana she didn’t know, free and fierce, like she said a dybbuk was. Hannah felt she must have taken a wrong turn in her own life. She felt sorry for herself. But who was interested in how she felt? She was jealous of her own daughter and irritated with the Wonder Rabbi. What would he do if she slapped him across the face? Would he notice her then? Hannah felt her right arm twitch, as if it wanted to do just that. It was all she could do to catch hold of it and keep it from lashing out. But, in order to do so, she had to know how much she wanted to do it. This knowledge mortified her. She flushed and blushed bright red for the third time just that afternoon. She felt herself getting sexually aroused. It felt good and it felt terrible, because there was nothing she could do about it. What would it have been like if she had come to see the Wonder Rabbi by herself? Maybe she had a dybbuk in her, too. Maybe the dybbuk she had in her was as interesting as the one Ilana had. Maybe it knew more about life.
The winter sun, just beginning to glow pink, was lower in the south and west as they stepped back into Millenial Gliches. Computer monitors with blue screens watched from the work bench in the back of the room. There wasn’t a chance in the world they would get home in time for dinner. Hannah was delighted. Eddie did all sorts of things the nights he said he was working late. It would serve him right if he got home and they weren’t there. He probably wouldn’t even worry about them. This thought made her feel even worse about herself. She wanted to tell the Wonder Rabbi. She wanted to sit on his lap and throw her arms around his neck and plant a big fat kiss on his lips. She wished she were wearing bright red lipstick that left a mark. Would a red imprint of her lips right smack in the middle of his face prove she existed? But something about the Wonder Rabbi made him absolutely unapproachable. It wasn’t that he was neutral. He was anything but neutral, changing maddeningly from instant to instant until Hannah got the idea he was not stable at all, but a chaos of impulses and impressions. He was absorbed in what he was doing. He was unapproachable because in his very quiet and modest way he was lost in his task. He was like a bridge into another world. This bridge spanned an immensity. All Hannah could see was this end. The rest was lost in swirling fog. “Now,” proclaimed the Wonder Rabbi, seated in a swivel office chair with his back to the computers’ blue heads, “the appointed hour has come. Ilana, you already know what to do and how to do it. This knowledge has joined you along your path in this world and has been travelling with you a long time. Just let what comes into your mind and heart come and move you as it moves you.” Ilana stood in the center of the room, her tiny feet black as notes against the wooden floor. “Yes, master,” she said softly, inclining her chin in the direction of the Wonder Rabbi. There were a few seconds of what Hannah later remembered as the most profound quiet she had ever experienced, a hush that joined life and death together. Then Ilana began to shake. It started with just a small tremor of her head upon her neck, then spread through her neck down to her arms, then engaged her torso, then her legs. In just a few instants it occupied all of her. Hannah thought she might be having a seizure, except that she maintained her balance perfectly, her feet still as quotation marks against the floor. “I am here. I have come from afar. Master, through whom so much is revealed in this world of pain and trouble, I salute you. I never thought I would see you in person. I heard of you in Vilno. May the Almighty be praised for bringing us together, here in Brooklyn, all living at once. How improbable this meeting is. How full of wonder. “To this young girl, I must say, ‘Thank you.’ It is a great mitzvah to shelter strangers in your house. How much more is it a virtue to shelter a stranger at the very core of yourself, to share your strength with one who has suffered, to allow that stranger to consume what you need yourself. I must also express my appreciation for her steadfastness and for her acumen at having found me and let me come out. I have been in others who had no suspicion and so could derive no benefit either from me or from themselves.” Hannah felt she was being personally accused. It was so unfair. She wanted to spit at the dybbuk that now had hold of Ilana. “I come from far away and long ago. Look at me, I’m already not here. I’ve been not here for so long and I will vanish again.” Hannah was astonished to hear just those words come out of Ilana’s mouth. Or was it now the dybbuk’s mouth? Or was it a shared mouth, where diverse streams of hope and regret and longing mingled in their flowing forth? “Hannah, daughter of Leah, I come from the time of your mother’s mother, Sarah. I was old already then. I was in her and of her, because in times of great need, someone must be without need. “ “To be without need is the greatest unfreedom, at once an immense sacrifice and an immense selfishness. To be without need, you have to lose interest in yourself. To do that you have to concentrate all your interest in yourself in a tiny drop, one too tiny even for you to see when you know just where it is. “Then you must send virtually all of you to live in that drop, so that you are free to act in the world, not as yourself or on behalf of yourself, but instead of yourself, as part and parcel of what surrounds you. The great consolation is that you can tell yourself that you are innocent and live outside your own rage. You can even imagine you are perfect. “Heed my words. I know, because I have done it. I know how it sooths and steals away all at once. I know how it is balm and horror bound together. “I know how it is pride and modesty all in one, because you imagine that, in that small drop, you rule. You can do just as you like if only you reduce your scope until it is next to nothing at all. Better to rule in nothing’s nest, than to struggle in a wider world full of woe and sorrow and ugliness. Be next to nothing and be free and be all powerful.” The dybbuk laughed a laugh full of scorn and desparation. “If you cut yourself in two this way, you can be utterly selfish within your tiny empire. You tell yourself scale makes no difference. A cell and a nebula have the same form. You rule and yet you are also free of yourself, free to sacrifice yourself, so you can claim the virtue of that. You can be everything and nothing all at once.” Now the dybbuk looked sad, but strangely appealing, even familiar. Hannah rummaged in the archive of her memory for the image that fit. Was it her own face as she had once surprised it in the mirror? Or was it an expression she remembered from her mother’s face when she was little, fleetingly there, then ruthlessly suppressed? “Only there is one small problem,” the dybbuk went on. “You can slip right over the edge, not all at once, but by degrees, imperceptibly. You slip. Then you are falling. There is no way back. As you fall, you scream. No one hears. You have trained them not to hear. Besides they are too busy with themselves. “Then you hate them. You feel betrayed to the marrow of your bones, because you have longed for someone to notice not just your sacrifices but also your selfishness. You have longed for someone to notice you and to help you build a bridge between sacrifice and selfishness that would let you be real. “You discover that you can not stop hating them. You hate yourself for hating them. You can not stop hating yourself. You are lost, frozen. So you tell yourself to make the best of it. That’s how you turn into a dybbuk, waiting, waiting for the mercy of an innocent, hating yourself for what? For your need, which is not just the worst of us but also the best of us.” Now a tear formed in the corner of the dybbuk’s eye, one tiny diamond tear, in the corner of Ilana’s eye. Hannah felt the impulse to jump up from her seat and hug the dybbuk, hug Ilana. But she couldn’t move. She didn’t know if it would be too dangerous to hug a dybbuk. It might hurt it or worse, hurt Ilana. But there it was. She had felt something tender and generous in herself, something slight and green. It repulsed her. Maybe it always had. It was too fragile. She could kill it so easily. She was disgusted with it because she could kill it so easily. Or was it that she was disgusted with herself? Or did it make any difference which was which? It was her, wasn’t it? Suddenly nauseated and dizzy, Hannah knew she was going to swoon right there. Would the Wonder Rabbi catch her? Or would he be too slow? Would he rush to her after she was already slumped on the floor? She would come to in his arms looking into those eyes as green as life itself. But what would she see there? This thought went through her like a jolt, clearing her head. No, she realized with a mixture of disappointment and relief, she wasn’t going to faint. She was too stubborn for that. She wouldn’t. She couldn’t. “So there you have it,” said the dybbuk. “But Hannah, I should give you the historical details. They make all the difference and no difference at all. Your great-grandmother’s name was Leah, just like your mother’s name. Leah was a sickly woman, a silly woman, too, who went along with whatever came her way. She had nine children. Sarah was the oldest. “I mean to say, ‘I was the oldest.’ As a dybbuk, you get into bad habits. One of the worst is talking about yourself in the third person, as if you had lost all hope of being either an ‘I’ for yourself or a ‘you’ for another person. I was the oldest. It was like I had ten children. Mother was sickly and silly, conveniently sickly and conveniently silly, and, yet, she was all I had or knew of warmth. “Benjamin, my father, was no help at all. I think he spent most of his time waiting for mother to go. I remember when I was twelve, I heard his mother yelling at him, ‘Benjamin, Benjamin, come out of there, come out of there.’ She yelled in a voice that came from another world. “My father never listened to anyone, but he listened to her and he came out. Only it wasn’t just him who came out. It was the servant girl, Masha, too, and both of them were flushed and red in the face. Then my Grandma slapped him across the face, as hard as she could. Her nails drew blood on his cheek. He only blinked. “But Grandma slumped down on the floor and began to cry and to wail and to pray that the day of her death would be near and to curse God because He, in his wisdom, had made her live this long, to see her son do such a thing in his own house, in front of his wife and children.” “Now God heard this mother’s bitter prayer about her son. It wasn’t my sickly silly mother who went. No, it wasn’t what we had all prepared for. No, God is full of surpises, good and bad both. It was my father who died. After he died, my Grandma Rachel arranged for us to cross the ocean, my mother and all nine of us. She stayed behind. “She said it was like Moses and the Promised Land. God wouldn’t let her go up, because she was a sinful woman. Only I’ve had a long time to think about it. I don’t see it that way any more. “I think God had mercy on Moses. Moses had already done enough for God in teaching Him about the need for mercy on the ways of imperfect men. God rewarded Moses by sparing him the disillusionment of crossing into the Promised Land to see that it was really the Compromised Land, where the flowers of evil and the flowers of good would spring up together in the same fields. “As God left Moses with the Promised Land intact in his heart, so I hope He left my Grandma Rachel with the New World all fresh in her heart all the rest of the days of her life. I don’t know how she arranged for us to come any more than I know how Moses managed the Exodus from Egypt. Only I know it was not legal. “We landed in Nova Scotia just as winter was coming, a gray day of freezing rain just like last Thursday. A man with a white beard met us at the dock and said he would take us to America. We were to do just as he said. Our terror made us meek as mice. Mother was sicker than ever. We crossed the border a week later at night near Niagara Falls, where your mother and father went on their honeymoon when they eloped, Hannah. Oh, how I hated them for running away from me like that. “When we came to Cleveland, Esther, my future mother-in-law, had sewn a new dress for each one of us five girls. It was the first new dress the little ones had had. They glowed with new life. Only for me it was too late. I put it on and, underneath it all, I knew there was the same old body. “I married and I had three children, two girls and a boy, all of whom felt like orphans, because I could not hear their tears. Once the police came and told me the neighbor had called them because she could hear my son crying. I hadn’t heard him. I was sickly and silly, just like my own mother, but vengeful in a way I never knew her to be. Each of us adds something of our own. “Only I have had a long time to think and to repent and to try to go the way of returning to my home in my heart that was once warm. I lived my life by not living it out of a secret shame in my heart that I was only me and nothing else. So, Hannah, as one mother to another, I apologize to you for stealing your child and feasting on her from inside.” Hannah was dumbstruck as she watched Ilana begin to shake again. In the midst of her shaking, she froze absolutely still. “Look at me,” she said in just that ghostly voice, “I’m already not here.” Then she shuddered three times and blinked. “Hi, mom,” Ilana said softly. “I’m starving.” “You poor child,” Hannah murmured, opening her arms and gathering her in. Only who was it that she gathered in? Was it Ilana or the dybbuk, was it her mother or her mother’s mother, or was it herself? Was it one or many? When she unwrapped her arms from around Ilana, Hannah was surprised to discover that the Wonder Rabbi was quietly engaged in typing lines of code. They appeared as glowing golden script on the black screen of one of the computer monitors. The script seemed at once mysterious and molten. After just a few seconds, the Wonder Rabbi swivelled in his chair to face them. His nose was now bigger than before. His ears were noticeably asymmetric. Even his eyes, once so deeply green, seemed to have shaded towards gray. “Ilana,” he announced, “that was wonderful.” “What was wonderful?” Ilana asked. “Yes, that’s right,” the Wonder Rabbi said, “you don’t remember.” “Have I lost her?” Ilana cried in anguish. “No, no, “ replied the Wonder Rabbi, “you’ve found her. She’s inside. Maybe changed a little. But she’s here and so are you. Your mother can tell you all about it. I’m sure she will.” Hannah looked out through the window onto the street. Night had fallened. People with worried intent expressions on their faces passed on their ways home from work. “Now, Hannah,” the Wonder Rabbi said, “I must give you a few very simple instructions. Don’t be surprised by tears. The self abandoned self or, if you’d prefer to put it this way, the self abandoned soul, sheds tears when it is reunited with itself. The tears can be deep and dark and bitter, too.” “How long do they go on for?” Hannah inquired, a bit taken aback by what he said. “Only forever,” answered the Wonder Rabbi. “Because they flow together to make a river that carries us beyond sorrow and joy to a peace where we are reconciled with our own smallness and our own vastness. Also, for the next year, you must feed her very well and eat very well. You must remind each other that we don’t eat just for ourselves. ” “How much do I owe you,” Hannah put in, seized by a sudden urge to gather up her daughter and be gone. “Nothing,” replied the Wonder Rabbi. “Thank you,” said Ilana, smiling at him, “I know you saved my life.” “You’re very welcome,” he responded softly. “But actually I think it may be the other way around. “
“I’m going back to work, Eddie,” Hannah said three months later. “Why?” “Because I want to. I’ve got it all set up. I’m going to work at Spitzer, Feigelbaum and Hamburg. I’m going to do estates and trusts.” “Why estates and trusts? That’s deadly stuff.” “It’s got something to with dybbuks.” “What?” Hannah was on the verge of telling him to ask Ilana because she would be able to tell him all about it, when she was overwhelmed by an urge she could not contain. She got up from the breakfast table, went around behind him, threw her arms around Eddie and kissed him full on the lips, as if he were the Wonder Rabbi himself. “How do you like that?” she asked. Having retreated only four inches, she read the bafflement in his eyes. She kissed him again before he had the chance to get any words out. “Or that?” she asked, and then promptly kissed him a third time, feeling the beginnings of a real response. Neither of them noticed that Ilana had come into the room. “Stop it, you two,” Ilana announced her presence. “Don’t you know it’s embarassing when your parents smooch in front of you at my age?” Hannah’s eyes met Ilana’s. Ilana blushed. Hannah thought it was the most beautiful color of pink she had ever seen. “If estates and trusts are what you want to do,” Eddie said, “more power to you.” The confusion on his face reminded her of a much younger man. She smiled when she realized his ears were perfectly symmetrical. Or maybe not quite. “I’m glad you’re going back to work, Mom,” Ilana said. “That way I don’t have to live for both of us. It’s hard enough to live just for one person.” “I don’t understand either one of you,” Eddie said. “Maybe that’s a help, too,” Hannah responded. She felt the urge to cry, but was stunned to discover that, instead, she laughed out loud.